Police find bodies of 2 children in trunk during traffic stop; aunt arrested
A 33-year-old woman was arrested after police found in her car the decomposing bodies of her niece and nephew
By Rose Wagner and McKenna Oxenden
The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — A 33-year-old woman drove around with the body of a young girl in her trunk for “many months,” then in May placed the girl’s dead younger brother in the trunk beside her decomposing body, according to documents charging her in connection with their deaths.
Baltimore County Police charged Nicole Michelle Johnson with neglect, failure to report the death of Joshlyn Marie James Johnson, 7, and Larry Darnell O’Neal, 5, disposal of their bodies and child abuse that resulted in the death of the two children, according to charging documents.
Police discovered the bodies during a traffic stop in Essex late Wednesday night, and Johnson later told them one of the bodies had been in the trunk since May of 2020, according to charging documents.
A statement of probable cause says Johnson was the aunt of the two children and had been trusted to care for them since 2019.
The document says an Essex officer pulled over Johnson’s car, which was traveling quickly down Eastern Boulevard at 11:17 p.m. July 28. Johnson’s car had a fake temporary tag and registration and she had been driving without a license, according to the statement. When the officer issued a citation for Johnson to appear in court and informed her the car would have to be towed, the report alleges Johnson told the officer: “It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days,” and “Y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.”
When the officer cleared the trunk for the car to be towed, police documents say the officer smelled decomposition coming from plastic bags in the car.
The decomposing bodies of both children were found in the car, according to police documents, one in a suitcase and one inside a plastic tote bag. When the officer found the first child’s body, police documents say Johnson tried to flee the scene.
Both bodies were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical examiner, but according to the probable cause statement, the cause of death for both children has yet to be determined. Police documents allege the children were malnourished at the time of their deaths.
According to charging documents, Johnson told police that in May 2020, she became angry with Joshlyn and hit her several times, causing the child to hit her head on the floor. Documents say Johnson told police she then put Joshlyn’s body in a suitcase in her car.
Johnson told police that in May of this year she put Larry’s body in a plastic tote in her trunk next to the decomposing body of his sister, according to documents, but did not elaborate on how he died.
Police say Johnson later told detectives the children belonged to her sister Dachelle Johnson who had asked Nicole Johnson to look after them in 2019.
Police say Dachelle Johnson told them she had tried multiple times to get in touch with her sister and the children since leaving the kids in Nicole’s care in 2019 but didn’t hear back. Police documents say Dachelle had not been able to find her sister or her children until she was notified of the children’s deaths.
Nicole Johnson is currently being held without bond and is scheduled for a bail review hearing July 30, at 1 p.m. in Baltimore County District Court. Nicole Johnson waived her right to attorney at her initial appearance.
“The entire Baltimore County Police Department grieves with the community over the unspeakable deaths of two innocent children,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said in a statement late Thursday.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. called the children’s death a tragedy.
“This incident is horrific and a heartbreaking loss of life,” he said. “We will continue to provide every resource to support our Department’s ongoing investigation into this devastating case.”
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